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(p. 39) Exploding Head Syndrome 

(p. 39) Exploding Head Syndrome
(p. 39) Exploding Head Syndrome

Brian A. Sharpless

and Jacob A. Zimmerman

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date: 16 May 2021

Exploding head syndrome is the colorful name given to the experience of loud noises during sleep-wake and wake-sleep transitions that result in abrupt arousal and fright. The specific sounds reported during episodes of exploding head syndrome are quite variable and can include perceptions of fireworks, lightening cracks, or nondescript screaming. Visual experiences (e.g., light flashes) may also be involved. A variety of etiological theories exist for exploding head syndrome, but the most popular of these implicates abnormal surges of neuronal activity within the brainstem during sleep-wake transitions—surges which then are perceived as the loud and startling sounds. Although episodes are more common than initially thought and can have important clinical impacts on sufferers, exploding head syndrome is still a relatively unknown disorder. Further, its characteristic symptoms have also been incorporated into several current conspiracy theories, of which many clinicians may be unaware.

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